Paloma, our motorhome is parked up under the wall of Château Guillaume-le-Conquérant in Falaise, France (N48.892760 W0.202800).
Falaise means cliff in French, and this little plateau atop the craggy rock-faces rising above the Ante and Masceron Rivers.
What an excellent place for a major castle for ruling the Norman family as they built fortifications around their region and a great place for our first night in France.
So we’re in France and about to have a lesson on English history!
Early in the 11th century, it became the main base for Robert, rebellious younger brother of Richard, heir to the duchy. On their father’s death, the elder son became Duke Richard III of Normandy, but he soon died in mysterious circumstances. Robert cast aside his young nephew to become Duke Robert I of Normandy. His eight-year reign was fraught with dissent, but Falaise would play a crucial role in Norman and English history during those years.
Here at Falaise, it might be said that the seeds were sown for a huge shift in English history. Based at Falaise castle, Duke Robert fell for the charms of a young local woman, Herleva, or Arlette, the daughter of a local tanner. Legend has it that Robert spotted the young woman beside a stream and was immediately smitten.
In late 1028, or possibly in 1029, she gave birth to their illegitimate son, William. Although the duke would not marry Herleva, she acquired power through her relationship with him. Little is known about William’s childhood, although it is assumed that many of his early years were spent in Falaise with his mother.
At the end of 1034, the repentant Duke Robert decided to head out on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and designated his young bastard son William as his rightful heir. The Bastard William succeeded on his father’s death in 1035 and would become one of the most successful leaders of his time, the conqueror of England and England’s first Norman king.
In more modern times it is known for the battle of the Falaise Pocket during Operation Overlord in August 1944 in which two German armies were encircled and destroyed by the Allieds .
Reportablely Some 10,000 German troops were killed and 50,000 taken prisoner.
Two-thirds of Falaise was destroyed by Allied bombing before the town was taken by a combined force of Canadian and Polish troops. Falaise was largely restored after the war, but the church still carries the scares.
After a good look around we decided to move on and make our night stop in (n48.260310 E0.115670) only 90km or so driven but we are heading south (slowly).